House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) spelled out her displeasure with House Republicans in a second letter this week demanding answers regarding the retention of a private lawyer to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in pending court cases.
In a letter to Speaker John Boehner, Pelosi blasted the Ohio Republican for hiring former Solicitor General Paul Clement and his legal team from King and Spalding to defend DOMA. She asked pointed questions about the costs associated with the contract and whether any conflicts of interest exist.
House Republicans are unhappy with President Barack Obama’s conclusion in February that DOMA, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, is unconstitutional and his instructions to the Justice Department to stop defending the 1996 law in court.
In March, GOP leaders adopted a resolution to intervene in pending cases, and the Speaker’s office confirmed Monday that Clement, the solicitor general under President George W. Bush, would defend DOMA for the House. He also said he would seek to redirect funds from the Justice Department to pay the legal expenses.
The announcement received a swift response from Pelosi on Monday, who wanted to know why Democrats on the House Administration Committee were not notified about Clement’s hiring, even though a contract was reportedly forwarded to the panel.
A contract between Boehner and the law firm shows a blended charge of $520 per hour with a $500,000 cap.
Pelosi criticized the transparency of the contract negotiations and pressed for details about the deal Wednesday.
“While the Democratic Members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) opposed the decision of the Republican Members to authorize involvement in the DOMA lawsuits, that opposition in no way diminished the need for normal oversight of the terms of any contract signed by the Republican Leadership obligating the House of Representatives to pay half a million dollars of taxpayer money for private attorneys,” Pelosi’s letter states. “Yet the Democratic representatives on the BLAG, and the Democratic members of the Committee on House Administration, were provided with no information about the contract prior to or, at the time of, its being signed on April 14th.”
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Pelosi’s “newfound concern for saving taxpayers money is encouraging.”
“We hope it means we can count on her support for reducing DOJ’s budget to recoup any costs incurred by the House so that taxpayers will bear no added cost for the administration’s refusal to defend the laws of the United States,” he said.